Mark Shuttleworth makes his smartphone play - TechCentral

Mark Shuttleworth makes his smartphone play


The first commercially available smartphone running Ubuntu, the open-source operating system developed by Canonical — the company founded by South African technology billionaire Mark Shuttleworth — is about to go on sale.

The phone won’t immediately be available through South African channels. Rather, it will be available across Europe from through a series of “flash sales” in the coming weeks.

Described as the “perfect balance between price and specifications”, the phone, called the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, will retail for €169,90 (about R2 200 at the time of writing).

Canonical has spent several years working on a smartphone version of its Ubuntu Linux software, which already powers server infrastructure around the world and which is also a firm favourite of desktop Linux enthusiasts.

The Aquaris E4.5 is dual-Sim phone with a 4,5-inch display. It has an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus and dual flash and a 5-megapixel front-facing “selfie” camera. The rear camera is also equipped with special sensors and a Largan lens.

The phone is powered by a MediaTek quad-core Cortex A7 processor that tops out at 1,3GHz. There’s also 1GB of RAM.

Operators such as 3 Sweden, in Spain, giffgaff in the UK and Portugal Telecom are offering Sim bundles at purchase for buyers in those countries, Canonical said.

The date, time and Web address for the first flash sale will be announced through @Ubuntu and @bqreaders on Twitter as well as Ubuntu G+ and Ubuntu Facebook within the next week, according to a statement.

Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth

“The launch of the first Ubuntu smartphones is a significant milestone. The new experience we deliver for users, as well as the opportunities for differentiation for manufacturers and operators, are a compelling and much-needed change from what is available today,” said Canonical CEO Jane Silber.

Ubuntu on smartphones uses “edge interactions” and “Scopes”, which Canonical describes as a “reinvention of the mobile user interface”.

They present a new way to access services such as music, social, Web and photos directly on the home screen. The company says Scopes avoid the pitfalls of rival platforms that “bury content and services inside multiple apps in an icon grid”.

“As any kind of content can be presented via Scopes, they provide developers with an easy path for their creations to be integral to the device experience,” the company said. “It is simple to create new Scopes via an easy to use user interface toolkit with much lower development and maintenance costs than traditional apps.”  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media


  1. I agree. I am also not understanding why not launching it here in SA first. Why not learn what they Chinese are doing…test it home first then tackle the international market

  2. I don’t think Shuttleworth has called SA home in a while. MUCH bigger market in the US and Europe.

  3. Andrew Craucamp on

    That price is actually reasonable compared to other mid range smartphones. But aside from that, Meizu is releasing a top tier Ubuntu Phone soon. That one will be available internationally.

  4. However, if your operating system is efficient, you don’t need huge hardware specs for to perform.

    This is NOT Android

  5. Regardless the OS (and I’ll not argue the efficiencies of Ubuntu – I’m a HUGE fan) – the cost of the phone seems high. May be a different OS but the components can be compared like-for-like to any Android phone.

  6. Trust me, the Chinese who seems to know something about the smartphone market started with Asia (home) followed by Latin America and Middle East and Africa markets before attempting EU and US markets. It costs a lot of advertising dollars to penetrate EU and US market. That market is driven by brand equity and operators also make it difficult for new smartphone vendors with their cosy deals with Samsung and Apple.

    Perhaps the cash squeezed Spanish and Portuguese may be takers for a cheap smartphone.

  7. I think it’s hard for any non-Asian company to crack it in Asia. Apart from language and writing challenges there’s a massive culture shift.

  8. Ofentse Letsholo on

    But he’s better than Elon Musk whom on every article is forever said to be “a South African” yet he never gives a damn about it, Shuttleworth at least he does a few things in SA that are notable like with his recent court winning which he said the money he got paid will assist those in need of what he went through. Plus his initiatives with the university of Pretoria and other stuff. I like this guy.

  9. Elon Musk is a prodigy and a legend. Just because he doesn’t fill the African begging bowl doesn’t mean he isn’t making a significant impact on the world. Africa and indeed South Africa should be proud of both.

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